Half the Entire US Population Primarily Discovers Music on Radio

It’s not that Flo Rida makes better music, but then again, this isn’t a discussion about quality.

Because when it comes to blowing stuff up, this is a discussion about endless repetition and mainstream access, which is exactly what traditional radio still delivers in spades.

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Here’s a study just published by Nielsen, which finds that nearly half the entire US population relies on traditional, broadcast radio to discover new music.  Call it lazy or uninspired, but this is the reality of ‘fast food music’ in America.

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The more interesting stories are happening with artists like Jonathan Coulton and Amanda Palmer.  But when it comes to delivering over-the-top tonnage, that’s not where the action is.  So pick your game wisely.

But wait: this entrenched media game doesn’t last forever, but it is moving at a glacial pace.  Here’s a look at the same question addressed towards teenagers.

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The Nielsen study involved online surveys of 3,000 Americans of varying ages.  It was conducted as part of the company’s “Music 360” initiative. 

23 Responses

  1. Slow to Go

    Listening to music on You Tube?!? What am I missing? I know folks post songs as videos with no actual video, people actually spend a lot of time listening to these “videos”?

    • Anthony

      Who cares if there’s no video? It’s about the music.

      Do you stare at iTunes or your CD deck when a song is playing?

    • wallow-T

      On YouTube:

      “people actually spend a lot of time listening to these ‘videos’?”

      Yes. You must not have kids, or friends with kids — and by kids I mean “in their 20s” — in your life. I have personally observed the young adult children of friends and relatives doing this.

      Younger people actually use YouTube the way they are supposed to be using Spotify.

      • Anthony

        Smart people use YouTube, not just the young. It’s the most efficient way to consume music. More efficient than Spotify and it has exclusive material that will never make it on iTunes, Spotify etc.

        • Anthony

          To clarify, Spotify might be the most efficient ONCE you have it installed. YouTube has the least amount of barriers though and the exclusive content thing makes it very appealing.

          • Jeff

            I agree 100%. This is seen a lot in hip hop because tracks that are on mixtapes are essentially never on Spotify.

      • The TruthTeller


        And the step that’s missing is….

        If they like the music a lot they download it from YouTube to save to their mp3 player.

        There is probably not much you can’t find on YouTube, it’s easy go to and easy to download….and you can’t beat free!

        Google and their advertisers are enjoying the bounty that music draws…and one can’t help but love the cynical but redundant placate the rights holders buy now from Amazon, iTunes buttons…

        WAKE UP, PEOPLE!

        • wallow-T

          I have not followed this in detail, but my understanding is that Those Kids generally don’t bother converting the YouTube stream to a MP3 on their hard drive. After all, the YouTube video is in the cloud, and Those Kids can access it any time they want. Why clutter up your computer or mobile device?

          At the risk of getting way too meta: among Those Kids there seems to be a turn against the accumulation of Things, the drive which has dominated American culture and powered its economy for the last few decades. Perhaps Those Kids are just realizing that, due to the crash in demand for expensive American labor and the resulting levelling of global incomes, they are never going to have money like their parents did, and they are downsizing their desires to match.

          Look up the news stories on the numbers of people under 25 who do not have a driver’s license, or a car — its a percentage which is mindboggling us older folks, for whom the car represented freedom.

          • Central Scrutinizer

            Yes, music has been devalued so much, why bother keeping it around? That empty plastic water bottle sitting in the recycle bin has more value.

            The ubiquitous access to digital media makes storage pointless and I think more and more of Those Kids (who are the majority of music “consumers” today) intuitively shun data storage.

            However, there will always be hoarders who want to retain everything so software developers that create apps that store streaming data will always have a few customers.

  2. VC Slave

    In actual science, they would call this evidence of a corrupt sample. At minimum, the dubiously phrased byline only exaggerates the caveat through which I now drive this truck.

    That ‘half the entire US population’ even listens to radio might be tenuously claimed, but only if one includes the intellectual abyss of talk radio into the statistic.

    That talk radio audience aside, a subset of music radio listeners would need to exclusively discover new music via radio in order for the byline claim to approach believability.

    Then again, grammar…journalism…whatever.

    • Tape Scotch

      It doesn’t say the only place is radio just the primary place.

  3. HansH

    Now you know why your Spotify royalty statements show pennies.

  4. blerg

    It was published by Nieslon through a small number of online surveys.

    Biased, unscientific, next article please.

  5. arthurjowens

    I’m curious as to how the survey was presented. Are the listed categories the top categories or were the survey recipients given multiple choice options and just picked from those options? More detail please.

  6. Big Swifty

    Frank is finally on iTunes.

    I realizeI am not the typical music fan but I don’t think I ever heard one of his songs on the radio and I own at least ten of his albums…..and yes in vinyl, CD and now digital download format

  7. R.P.

    the 3,000 people I surveyed all said the internet. That’s wierd…


    seriously guys, come on already. 48% of what? people from where? Skokie Illinois? of what age? 55+ and how many songs and albums have they purchased in the last 6 months?

    retarded. zero logic.

    • Seth Keller

      Skokie, IL is where most of America lives–metaphorically and philosophically.

      One thing all of us who read this and other music business blogs (or any music blogs for that matter) forget is that the majority of people in the US and the world are not “music fans” as we think of them. They aren’t reading pitchfork, searching for obscure jazz outtakes or debating the merits of Neil Young or Bob Dylan’s newest release. They aren’t fans of Amanda Palmer or Alabama Shakes–if they even know what or who they are.

      They are attending Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift shows, listening to Pitbull and Katy Perry on CHR, dancing to pop remixes by EDM DJs and buying mainstream country CDs.

      Whether you look at the Big Champagne charts or Soundscan, the “artists” that have the most illegal downloads and sales are on the radio. The concerts (not festivals) that have he biggest grosses are those of current or former radio artists along with EDM DJs now (previously that big niche outside radio artists was occupied by Jam Band artists).

      Obviously, people are supporting artists not on the radio and many of them are thriving. But what we forget is that most of America isn’t as passionate about music and music discovery as those of us who work in the business.

      As Paul points out, discovery channels are changing; but while this study may be scientifically flawed, I’d say anecdotally it’s pretty accurate.

      • True

        The majority of americans acquire their musical “taste” from TV shows.

        “Talent Shows” like American Idol, The Voice “Talk Shows” like Good Morning America, Tonight Show, and to get a little edgy Saturday Night Live all determine to a large extent what the majority considers music.

  8. CBQ

    Jesus H Christ – people use Youtube to “listen to music”??

    Is that people with no idea of what music can actually sound like?

    I think surely you mean people sample music on Youtube and then, if they are actually interested in music, will buy a CD – as that is the best sounding medium there is right now (and no, don’t give me vinyl with its “warmth” and “authenticity”, when you also get the scratches, pops and clicks)…

    Deaf people (no offence) “listen” to music on Youtube

  9. CDWorks

    Half the fun of growing up in America in the 60’s and 70’s was hearing new music on the radio. Progressive stations began to pop up just as quickly as the local footbal stadium was now your go to concert venue as the pop/rock scene began to translate to some very big dollars, most of the time not for the artist but rather some shady promoter who realized that he had a cash cow everytime he booked bands into those arenas. But today, 40 years later, conglomerates like Clear Channel have bought up the majority of the once powerful FM staples and turned them into sackless stations that are not allowed to play any type of protest song or anything that might go against the grain of said company. Boston recently lost our only alternative station, WFNX to Clear Channel. New music has turned to No music. There never was an issue hearing new music on the radio, it’s hearing it for the first time in a computer app commercial that is the new bummer.

    Check out the CDWorks Blog for other music and musician related posts:

  10. JC

    64% + 56% + 53% + 50% = 223%

    This result is absolutely meaningless to me. How can you have results that add up to more than 100%??

  11. Michael

    Hi Paul,

    Was Pandora, iHeart, SiriusXM, etc… left out of the stat sampling? I would think those streams enable a significant amount of new music discovery…